Nam Manchester, Unit 2, 33 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AJ – Visit Now
It’s hard to think of a restaurant that sums up modern Manchester more than Nam Manchester. This cutting-edge Vietnamese street food restaurant is based on one of the hottest properties in the whole of the UK right now: Cutting Room Square in Ancoats. An open-air area, decked out with benches as far as the eye can see, packed full of sharp-elbowed young professionals and not a single hint of pre-gentrification Ancoats in sight. It’s all very polished, like a mini-Mediacity, for better or worse.
The restaurant itself is all up-to-the-minute 2020s design features, dim lighting, wooden tables, and an intimate feel despite adhering to the COVID-inspired distancing regulations. There are rumours of some mysterious audiophile room that you can hire out, but it escapes my attention. I’m going to take a wild guess and assume it’s a room with some nice speakers, but kudos to Nam for making a thing of it.
The food leans toward the more expensive side, which is to be expected considering the location, but as it’s a Tuesday everything is half-price thanks to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which tempers the blow. It’s a solid menu, split into small plates and mains, with fairly predictable Vietnamese fare in the main. Which is something of a shame, it’d be nice to see some more out-there and unique dishes.
Of the lesser-spotted dishes, there’s the vegan small plate banana blossom bao. Banana blossom might sound like a delicate flower but it’s actually a fleshy, chunky food that grows out of the end of a banana fruit cluster. Rather than in a soft bao bun as the name might suggest, they arrive as a handful of angular morsels, bright yellow, crispy bites that seemed more about delivering a crunch than a meaty filling.
The chicken wings are pleasant enough: six small but chunky wings, coated in a caramelised ginger glaze. The meat is certainly very tender, and the ginger flavours aren’t too strong and the sauce is light and sticky – I was hoping for some charred edges to add a bit of bite, though if you like slurping meat off the bone you’ll love these.
For main, Cha Ca. Not a sassy dance, rather a salmon fillet poached in turmeric and galangal, plopped atop a swirl of medium-thick noodles, cooked in a coconut and dill sauce and with peanuts scattered on top. It’s a hearty filling dish, and the salmon was cooked well, though the appealing-sounding flavours were fairly muted. If you want to avoid heat, this is a safe bet.
Overall, it was a pleasant meal, if a little underwhelming in some areas. The ambience is nice and the staff happy and friendly and it’s easy to see why it’s popular, but I couldn’t help wishing they were a touch bolder when it comes to the ideas and flavours on the menu. Still though, a fine place to take a date or for a casual midweek meal, particularly while the bill is 50% off.